“I get so frustrated when someone doesn’t respond to a simple text.”
“No matter how often I reach out and seek to communicate with a peer, my texts, phone calls, and emails go unanswered – how rude and disrespectful!”
“They always post on FB and Instagram but can’t take one second to respond to me!”
When you neglect to communicate with those attempting to share, you make a strong statement and may not even know it. Leaders can’t succeed if they aren’t good communicators – and more often than not, leaders don’t even know that their communication skills need polishing. Communication has power, but like any powerful tool, it needs to be used effectively, or it can cause self-inflicted and collateral harm. Harnessing the power of communication is a fundamental leadership discipline. The first thing that must be understood is that communication is not a one-way conversation; it takes at least two to have communication. – Simple to understand, but not always practiced.
In this age, communication has often moved away from face-to-face communication to where we are now, communicating through phone calls, voicemails, texts, and social media platforms. With these 21st-century tools, we are at an advantage as to how instantly we can or when we respond; at the same time, we are at a disadvantage regarding how and when we respond. This is the paradox that can ruin a good thing. Organizations can only succeed internally if communication is flowing back and forth. Questions are asked, requests are made, appeals are given, and information is provided – all of these are within the framework of communication that goes beyond ‘personal’ conversations. The lack of or refusal to communicate with one’s peers in any organization can stunt and potentially harm an existing relationship and negatively impact the organization.
It is straightforward to drop the ball occasionally with all the competing interests regarding communication. One can understand the busyness that can hinder the desire to be an effective responder. The most incredible communicator was and is Jesus Christ. As we look throughout the New Testament, we can see how Jesus valued relationships with people and, as a result, mastered communication since it is a vital element to healthy relationships. We need to understand how intricately relationships and communication are tied together. In our work as leaders, one can only function or be productive with the other.
Many leaders, much of the time, need to understand communication better. This misunderstanding has consequences: corporations lose competitive advantage; not-for-profits find it harder to fulfill their mission; religious denominations lose the trust and confidence of their followers; and nations diminish their ability to protect citizens and achieve national security goals.
Some leaders misunderstand communication because they think they’re already good at it. They’ve been speaking since they were one year old, reading since age four or five, and writing soon after that. Unlike almost every discipline leaders have had to master, they’ve been communicating their whole lives. It seemed to be no big deal. Just as a fish is unaware of the water it swims in, leaders often are unaware of their communication abilities or lack thereof.
We may be great at communicating from me to him or them, but where do we stand when it comes to responding to him or them? How do you feel when you ask an individual a question, and they do not respond? You may ask them again because you think they didn’t hear you, and still no response. You think maybe they don’t understand the question, so you rephrase it, and still no response. You then raise your voice to see if you have their attention, and they still ignore your question! You become frustrated and feel handicapped because you are seeking to communicate and build a relationship through communication with that person. The problem is that communication takes two!! We can’t not communicate. The very attempt not to communicate speaks something. We can prioritize when and how we will respond, but neglecting continuous appeals for communication can lead to demonstrating a lack of respect or stating that the one seeking a response has no value to you.
As leaders, we must follow the example of Jesus Christ and understand that communication is more than answering a question; instead, it is more about building relationships. The two most important types of communication are between man and God and between human beings. Communication is more than just our ability to talk; it is also about listening and responding.
God’s word gives us valuable insights into how we should speak to, respond to, and treat one another. As Christians, we should seek to be a blessing to everyone we come into contact with. Our actions can reflect what is in our hearts, so we should constantly be filling our hearts, minds, and actions with what is best. The apostle Paul encourages us in this way, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). If we follow God’s word, then our communication and relationships with others will not only improve, but we will have favor and be blessed.